July 25, 2012
Australia's ocean waves have the potential to produce enough energy to power a city the size of Melbourne by 2050, a new CSIRO study says.
The report, released by the national science agency today, investigated the role ocean renewable energy (ORE) - such as wave, tidal and ocean current power - could play in providing the country's electricity from 2015 to 2050.
It found that, while the prospects for tidal and ocean flow technology were less promising, wave power remained "potentiality the single greatest ORE source" and could possibly provide 10 per cent of Australia's electricity needs.
But while it is an unlimited resource and has a higher degree of certainty than its green counterpart - wind energy - the report said ORE faced some difficulties.
Firstly, although more than 200 devices have been proposed for extracting ORE, only a few have actually been built and questions about how to anchor the devices and stop them from being damaged in extreme conditions have yet to be answered.
Then there are the unknown environmental impacts.
"The influence of wave calming, for instance, could have both adverse and advantageous effects in the local area," the report states.
The technology's uptake is reportedly dependent on the carbon price and would be hampered by one that was too high.
"Globally, wave energy is taken up earlier under the lowest carbon price and achieves capital cost reductions from learning-by-doing sooner than it would under the higher carbon prices.
"[But] under the higher carbon prices, nuclear is used in the earlier years as a source of zero-emissions generation because it is a lower cost option and nuclear power plants have a long lifetime.
"Other factors such as the economics of energy extraction, transmission, environment and social impacts will determine its future exploitation."
The CSIRO said further investigation was needed.